I’ve written about la rentrée before, that time in September when life resumes in France. People return to work and children return to school after the long summer break. New books are published, new movies appear in the cinemas, news broadcasters are shuffled: in short, it’s a fresh beginning.
We always seem to move in late summer and we got married in mid-September, so over and over again, we’ve had a fresh beginning in September. When I changed careers a dozen years ago and became a French teacher, I got to experience la rentrée each fall. Fresh pencils, fresh notebooks. Delightful.
I’ve started my own little rentrée ritual since moving into our new home three years ago. I go room by room, shelf by shelf, drawer by drawer, and box by box and decide if all if the accumulated stuff of our life should stay or go. (I do keep my hands off things that belong to my husband or our daughter, however.) I usually wonder at the outset if there is any need, since I went through everything just a year before, but I end up taking a car load of things to the thrift shop and throwing out as much again. Even though it’s a lot of work, it’s strangely cathartic to do all of this sorting. It made me think about my relationship with things. Here are some of my thoughts after The Great Purge 2017:
1. Use it or lose it: After I Roy G. Bived a bunch of books in my bedside table that had been lurking in a storage box in the basement, I realized that there were twelve of them. I resolved to read one a month and that anything that was still there at the next rentrée wasn’t important enough to me to stay. So far, I’ve read one and I’m partway through the second.
In addition, I found cards and postcards that I’d picked up in museum gift shops or vacations that were waiting for a special occasion to send to someone – some from more than two decades ago that went through two moves. I’ve started sending them out to people who might need their day brightened.
2. Rethink bulk purchases: I threw out a lot of pantry items that were past their “best before” dates. In almost every case, these were items that I had purchased at a bulk store in a multi pack. Hmm. Questionable savings. Also, do I really want to be a warehouse? I’m going to rethink whether a multipack or jumbo size makes sense for empty nesters.
3. Have a memory box: Going through funny little cards our daughter had made or reading a letter my husband had written about some of her childhood escapades had me laughing until my sides hurt. I called my daughter and read them to her to share the memories and she had a good laugh, too. I have a pretty box for my souvenirs and a more masculine one for my husband’s.
4. Get rid of incomplete sets: Why was I keeping top sheets to sets where the bottom sheet had worn out? My neighborhood has boxes for fabric recycling where I can take things that aren’t fit to donate.
5. Re-evaluate decorative items: Does the clock, or ornament, or candlestick on your shelf represent your current taste, someone else’s taste, or who you were a decade ago. Let it go!
I’m reveling in the knowledge that every nook and cranny is in order for another year. When la rentrée rolls around again, I wonder what other treasures I will unearth or what else I will find that needs to find a new home?